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Libra coin key for ‘America’s financial leadership’: Zuckerberg

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Facebook’s proposed digital coin Libra would “extend America’s financial leadership” while helping cash-strapped people around the world, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in remarks for delivery to lawmakers released Tuesday.

In the testimony released a day ahead of Zuckerberg’s appearance before a House of Representatives committee, the head of the world’s biggest social network described the planned cryptocurrency as an important financial innovation.

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“While we debate these issues, the rest of the world isn’t waiting. China is moving quickly to launch similar ideas in the coming months,” Zuckerberg said in his prepared remarks.

“Libra will be backed mostly by dollars and I believe it will extend America’s financial leadership as well as our democratic values and oversight around the world. If America doesn’t innovate, our financial leadership is not guaranteed.”

The comments come amid intense scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world, with many skeptical about the impact of the global digital currency planned for 2020.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook’s missteps on privacy and data protection have led many to conclude that “we’re not the ideal messenger right now” but argued that the plan would end up being beneficial for many people including those outside the banking system.

He noted that the planned currency would not be controlled by Facebook but governed by an independent board which includes companies and nonprofit organizations.

– ‘Financial inclusion’ –

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“People pay far too high a cost — and have to wait far too long — to send money home to their families abroad,” Zuckerberg said.

“The Libra project is about promoting financial inclusion through a safe, low-cost, and efficient way of sending and receiving payments around the world. Research shows that access to financial services can help people lift themselves out of poverty … We believe this is a problem that can be solved, and we want to be part of that solution.”

Facebook has said Libra would not launch without approval from regulators, and the plan has been criticized by officials on both sides of the Atlantic.

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a separate hearing Tuesday that a Libra launch would be “premature” and that various issues such as protection against money laundering and other illicit activity still need to be worked out.

Last week, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Italy, Germany and France would take unspecified steps in the coming weeks “to show clearly that Libra is unwelcome in Europe.”

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The Group of 20 economies said the proposed digital currency creates “serious” risks of money laundering, fraud and illicit finance and the G7 said Libra should not launch “until the legal, regulatory and oversight challenges and risks are adequately addressed.”

Zuckerberg, expected to face harsh questioning in the House Financial Services Committee hearing, said Facebook “will continue talking to regulators about our efforts” on Libra.

“We understand that whatever approach we take to promote financial inclusion must address regulatory concerns, including money laundering and terrorism financing, sanctions, and potential currency disruption and systemic risk,” he said. “I know that the Libra Association is mindful of those things as it proceeds.”

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Giuliani’s potential witness tampering in Ukraine is impossible to separate from Trump: Judiciary Democrat

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On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) broke down how Rudy Giuliani's misconduct in Ukraine is "inseparable" from President Donald Trump's.

"To everyone who asks whether we are moving too quickly, I say the president's lawyer is moving quickly to continue to ask a foreign government to cheat our elections, and doing nothing is completely off the table," said Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, the two most crucial committees in the impeachment inquiry. "We have to secure our elections. We have powerful, uncontradicted evidence now. And now is the time to hold the president accountable and determine just which impeachment articles we should proceed with."

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Financial groups gave $745 billion for 258 new coal power plants: Report

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Financial institutions have chaneled $745 billion over the past three years to new coal power projects worldwide despite effort to reduce fossil fuel use to fight climate change, a report released Thursday said.

The amount was calculated using data covering both lending and underwriting between January 2017 and September 2019 for all 258 coal plant developers identified in the Global Coal Exit List, drawn up by the Urgewald and BankTrack groups.

Altogether, the report cites more than 1,000 new coal power stations or units in the pipeline.

"Most of the top banks providing loans or investment banking services to these companies acknowledge the risks of climate change, but their actions are a slap in the face to the Paris Climate Agreement," said Greig Aitken, climate campaigner at BankTrack.

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‘Why not cooperate?’ CNN’s Wolf Blitzer hammers Pence’s chief of staff over impeachment stonewalling

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On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," anchor Wolf Blitzer challenged Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short to justify the administration's stonewalling of the impeachment inquiry.

"Wolf, the reality is that the last three years, they've been trying to overturn the will of the American people. They're trying to take away the votes of the American people," said Short. "This whole impeachment has been a sham. What they've tried to prove there is no proof of ... I think it sets a dangerous precedent."

"Here's what I don't understand," said Blitzer. "If the president has nothing to hide, it was a perfect phone call with the president of Ukraine, why not cooperate, provide the documents, why not let individuals go before the committees and testify?"

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